The past week has been a little warmer, above freezing and dry, so with winter break on, I’ve finally gotten to do more riding. Steve slipped trying to brake on black ice about two weeks ago, and while riding doesn’t bother him so much, starting and stopping does. We’re hoping his hip’s healed up enough to not cause problems on our upcoming bike trip to Laos and Vietnam. We fly to Bangkok Saturday. That has put a damper on Steve’s training, but I’ve been able to enjoy the weather and time off.
The last small city on my list of out-and-back-in-a day destinations was Shangcai, and I rode there Friday. It’s a “one Dico’s” city, but for the first time I couldn’t locate the fast food chain for an afternoon pick-me-up of good brewed coffee. I had to settle for the more common 3-in-1 at a “Texas Burger” next to the new mall. Weak coffee made from a powdered creamer, coffee, and sugar mix just doesn’t satisfy. I don’t actually eat food at these fast-food establishments. Instead, I got tofu skin stuffed pitas and veggie baozi (a sort of steamed filled bun) from vendors along the road.
I had a cold head wind riding back, but it was still a fine 87 mile ride, flat tire or not, full of villages, vendors, nature, and the occasional temple.
Shangcai is a bustling commercial center and there was a great deal of pre-holiday shopping going on. It must be a mecca for those who like KTV, because there was a 1km long swath of the popular karaoke night-spots. It seems even small towns manage to have one. For an hourly fee you can rent a themed private room of varying size and sing karaoke with your friends while you drink and dine. People here prefer private rooms at restaurants too, even if it’s just a curtain separating you from the next table.
I’d like to go back to Shangcai and investigate the pagoda and high wall I saw. Was it ancient or just park decoration? I’d gotten a later start than planned, and I knew it would be dark by the time I got back to Zhoukou, so I didn’t linger to find out. The narrow side-streets of the city were still covered in packed ice where the sun didn’t reach. Each of these smaller cities I’ve visited has had it’s own unique personality. None of them, however, has been anything but flat. This region of Henan has no hills, for that I have to go further afield.
We’ve recently gotten copies of a memoir written by a former English teacher here at Zhoukou Normal University, Ernie Danek, titled Teaching In Long Underwear: My China (available on Amazon). He taught in China for 10 years, and Steve met him once when he came back for a visit. While not a polished work, it’s a good read and tell-all about his experiences teaching here. I recommend it for those who think this might be something you’d like to do, or just to learn what’s it like, from his point of view. He also used a bicycle for basic transportation and some excursions here.
I also enjoyed a shorter 40+ miler yesterday through the land between the rivers west of Zhoukou that I hadn’t explored much before now. It further pieced together my understanding of the connections between county roads around Zhoukou.